UK adolescent slang quickly becoming a foreign language


“John’s chick is proper buff but she switched on her man the other day ‘cos he wanted to jam with his bred’rins instead of taking her out to the cinema. She was proper vexed and dust out. It was bare jokes.”

Be honest, how much of that did you understand? If the answer is ‘not much’, then don’t worry – you’re not alone.

A while ago, the BBC performed a small study on the slang terms used by children from schools across the United Kingdom, and found that the vocabulary used varied even more than they thought it would.

With England being such a small country in comparison to the USA, it’s often amazing to learn that their cultural and linguistic variation is just as pronounced – if not more pronounced – than on our side of the Atlantic. While a New Yorker and somebody from Alabama can understand one another without too much difficulty, the devil is in the details. Particular terms, words and phrases are the giveaway and often the obstacle that prevents total comprehension.

With children now growing up as part of the “Facebook generation”, there is even more opportunity for words and phrases to spread. Sites like Twitter can spread ideas around even faster and more efficiently than TV or music ever could. While there are many ‘universal’ phrases that have penetrated adolescent slang (for example, “LOL”), the regional differences of the slang terms most often used is surprising, and occasionally makes it extremely difficult to follow even simple conversations.

For those still curious, here’s the ‘translation’ of the above paragraph into plain English – the same paragraph was rendered using the slang of the 5 schools participating in the study. If you want to see the other 4 ‘translations’.

“John’s girlfriend is really pretty. But she got mad with him the other day because he wanted to hang out with his friends rather than take her to the cinema. She got really angry and stormed off. It was very funny.”